Slow Cooker Carnitas (Effortless, Caramelized, Succulent)

Slow Cooker Carnitas effortlessly come together in the crock pot, where pork is braised in an aromatic broth, cubed, and then finished off under the broiler. The result is succulent, caramelized, pork carnitas that are delicious in tacos or as a filling for burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and more!

Carnitas recipe on corn tortillas with cilantro and sour cream.


If you enjoy slow cooker taco fillings, you'll also love Crockpot Barbacoa, Crockpot Shredded Chicken Tacos, Crockpot Honey Lime Pork Tacos, and Crockpot Shredded Beef Tacos!

I believe we established my love of Mexican food (or around here, Tex-Mex) long ago. And y'all already know I love a good crock pot dinner. So today's recipe combines the best of both worlds...succulent, caramelized, absolutely delicious Slow Cooker Carnitas!

Aerial close-up of Slow Cooker Carnitas.

What Are Carnitas?

Traditional carnitas is a Mexican dish that involves chunks of tender, braised pork that are then crisped up in a frying pan or under the broiler. The resulting shredded meat can be used to stuff tacos, top tostadas, fill burritos, etc., etc.

However, adapting this recipe into Slow Cooker Carnitas is a no-brainer, because cooking pork carnitas in the crockpot is essentially effortless.

That being said, I still recommend taking a few additional minutes to complete the final step of caramelizing after slow cooking, which sets carnitas apart from regular ol' pulled pork. While you could certainly just shred up your carnitas recipe and call it a day, spreading it out on a sheet pan and broiling it for a few minutes (along with some of the reduced cooking liquid) makes for an even more delicious final result!

More on that in a bit... 😉

Carnitas tacos on blue plate with lime wedges in background.


The main ingredient in this Slow Cooker Carnitas recipe is obviously pork. But there are some special ingredients to infuse that pork with fabulous flavor!

Labeled ingredients to make Slow Cooker Carnitas.
  • Boneless pork butt roast. Despite its name, it's not from the "butt" of the's actually a shoulder roast. Just ask the butcher if the labeling is confusing and you're not sure. A bone-in pork butt will work as well, but you might consider buying a slightly heavier roast to compensate for later discarding the bone. Alternatively, you can use a pork loin instead of a pork butt...just keep in mind that since pork loin is leaner, your final carnitas recipe won't turn out quite as juicy. On the plus side, pork loin is faster to shred because there's very little fat to pick out and discard!
  • Chicken broth OR stock. Use low-sodium for more control over the final saltiness of your dish.
  • A whole onion, fresh minced garlic, + a whole orange. Aromatics for adding flavor to your pork carnitas! Use a regular-sized orange or, if you only have mandarins/cuties, use two or three instead for an equivalent amount of juice.
  • Lime juice. For a pop of tang. Use freshly-squeezed juice if you can, or bottled lime juice with "lime juice" as the only ingredient.
  • Cumin, dried oregano, bay leaves, salt, + pepper. For additional seasoning.
Carnitas tacos on table alongside bowl of Slow Cooker Carnitas.

How to Make Carnitas

(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)

  1. Place pork butt in a large slow cooker and cover with chicken stock.
Pork butt in crock pot.
Broth added to crock pot.
  1. Add quartered onion, minced garlic, lime juice, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves to crock pot.
Adding onions and garlic to pork carnitas in slow cooker.
Adding seasonings to carnitas recipe.
  1. Slice an orange in half and squeeze the juice, discarding any seeds. Add the orange juice and the spent orange halves to your crock pot.
  2. Season with salt and liberally sprinkle the whole shebang with freshly ground black pepper.
Adding lime juice and orange to carnitas recipe.
Seasoning carnitas recipe with salt and pepper.
  1. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours, or until your pork carnitas recipe is fall-apart tender.
Lid placed on crock pot.
Pork carnitas finished cooking in crock pot.
  1. Remove the pork roast from the slow cooker to a cutting board. Discard the onion quarters, orange halves, and bay leaves, and then strain any other solids from the cooking liquid.
  2. Transfer the strained liquid to a medium pot.
Liquid in slow cooker from pork carnitas recipe.
Cooking liquids in pot from carnitas slow cooker.
  1. Bring the pot of cooking liquids to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the total amount is reduced to between 1 and 1 ½ cups. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. In the meantime, trim away and discard any fat from the pork, and then cut it into 1-inch chunks. Combine the pork chunks with the reduced cooking liquid.
Bringing pot of cooking liquids to a boil for carnitas recipe slow cooker.
How to make carnitas by combining shredded pork with cooking liquids in pot.
  1. Spread the soaked shredded pork in an even layer onto a rimmed (and lined to make clean-up easier!) baking sheet.
Pork carnitas recipe on pan ready to caramelize under the broiler.
  1. Broil in a preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes. The carnitas should start to brown and the edges should turn dark and crispy.
  2. Remove the pan from the oven and use a wide spatula to flip your pork carnitas. Return the pan to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes to crisp up the other side as well.
Pan of broiled meat showing what are carnitas.

Carnitas Tacos

You can gussy up your Slow Cooker Carnitas any way you like, but the most obvious way to enjoy pork carnitas is to turn them into carnitas tacos!

A few ideas for toppings:

Labeled ingredients to build carnitas tacos.
  • For most of the photos in this post, I kept my carnitas tacos simple (and on the more authentic side), with just a squeeze of lime juice, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of fresh minced cilantro.
  • That being said, carnitas tacos are also divine topped with generous amounts of cheese, avocado, tomatoes, and salsa!
  • Or you could take a different approach with thinly sliced radishes and minced onion.
  • As for tortillas, corn tortillas are traditionally used for carnitas tacos. But flour tortillas are tasty as well, if that's your preference!

At the end of the day, tacos are personal...adorn them as you see fit. 🙂

Aerial view of three Carnitas Tacos on plate with garnishes.

Whether you decide to try out this easy, scrumptious carnitas recipe for an upcoming Taco Tuesday, Cinco de Mayo in a few weeks, or for a regular ol' weeknight dinner, I hope you'll keep it in mind the next time you're craving Tex-Mex.

Just promise me you'll give Slow Cooker Carnitas a try at some point. You'll be happy you did!

Bowl of Slow Cooker Carnitas.

To Accompany Your Carnitas Tacos

Slow Cooker Carnitas piled in bowl.

Slow Cooker Carnitas (Effortless, Caramelized, Succulent)

Slow Cooker Carnitas effortlessly come together in the crock pot, where pork is braised in an aromatic broth, cubed, and then finished off under the broiler. The result is succulent, caramelized, pork carnitas that are delicious in tacos or as a filling for burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and more!
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 203kcal
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  • 3 ½ to 4 pound boneless pork butt (AKA, shoulder roast)
  • 1 cup chicken broth OR stock
  • 1 onion, peeled & quartered
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 orange
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • Corn OR flour tortillas
  • Lime wedges
  • Sour cream
  • Fresh minced cilantro
  • Shredded cheese
  • Avocado chunks
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Salsa
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Minced onion


  • Place pork butt in large slow cooker. Cover with chicken broth. Add quartered onion, minced garlic, lime juice, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves to crock pot. Slice orange in half and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup, which should equal approximately ¼ to ⅓ cup, discarding any seeds. Add orange juice and spent orange halves to crock pot. Season with salt and sprinkle liberally with freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours (or HIGH for 4 to 5 hours).
  • Once pork butt is very tender, remove it from crock pot to a cutting board. Discard onion quarters, orange halves, and bay leaves, and strain any other solids from cooking liquid (it's okay to leave in the melted fat, as this will keep the carnitas moist). Pour strained liquid into a medium pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the total amount is reduced to about 1 to 1 ½ cups.
  • In the meantime, adjust oven rack to the center position and preheat broiler. While broiler is heating, trim fat from pork and discard, then cut pork into 1-inch chunks (it's okay if it shreds while you do this).
  • Once cooking liquid is reduced, season it generously with salt and pepper, and gently combine the liquid with the pork chunks. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper, if necessary. Spread soaked pork in an even layer onto a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes or until pork begins to brown and the edges turn dark and crispy. Remove pan from oven and use a wide spatula to flip carnitas, then return to oven for 5 to 10 more minutes to crisp up the other side as well. Serve warm with preferred taco fixings, or use for burritos/burrito bowls, nachos, or your favorite application.



  • Cuts of pork can be really confusing. Pork butt is actually a part of the shoulder. It is sometimes called Boston butt. If you are unsure of what to buy, don't hesitate to ask your butcher! My grocery store was out of pork butt when I shopped for this recipe, so I ended up using pork loin, which accounts for the lighter color of the pork in these photos. I recommend using pork butt/shoulder if you can find it, because it will turn out moister. The meat will also end up looking darker than what's pictured in this post.
  • I always recommend slow cooking roasts on LOW (rather than HIGH) for the juiciest meat and the best results.
  • If you're in a hurry to eat, you may simply shred your Slow Cooker Carnitas and stir in the desired amount of strained cooking liquids, skipping the steps of reducing the broth and broiling the chunks of pork. Just keep in mind that you won't enjoy the full flavor as enhanced by caramelization!


Calories: 203kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 393mg | Potassium: 512mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 59IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 2mg
Made this recipe? I'd love to see on IG!Mention @FiveHeartHome or tag #FiveHeartHome!

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Cookbook. Post originally published on May 1, 2014, and updated on May 1, 2021, April 17, 2023, and April 4, 2024.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I love how easy this recipe is! Taking the extra step to caramelize the pork at the end made it even tastier. My entire family enjoyed it and we will be adding this to the menu!

  2. I can't wait to try these! I have those exact same plates and bowls as you 🙂 so sad that Target left Canada so fast!

  3. 5 stars
    Carnitas are one of my favorite things to eat. These were fantastic. And cooking them in the slow cooker made them even better.

  4. 5 stars
    OMG!!! I found you again!
    Your pulled pork is by far the best recipe ever, but I lost it a while back. 🙁 🙁
    For some reason it doesn't "Google-search" well.
    But I found it again after much, MUCH searching through so many others that pale by comparison!!!
    *happy happy dance*
    ^_^ ^_^
    Nom Nom Nom!!! <3 <3

    1. Awww, I'm so happy to hear you found this recipe again, Marsha, and I'm thrilled you enjoy it so much. 🙂 Thanks for the sweet comment and hope you have a great weekend!

  5. Samantha, these look delicious! I'd love to see you link them up at my Skip The Housework party!

  6. OH! MY! WORD! Carnitas is my absolute weakness. I can't get enough - I think this will be my new favorite recipe. We will see how long it takes the family to tell me to stop making it- because I may try to use it in every single meal 🙂 No joke - I could eat it all day- everyday.

    1. You and me both, Gina! What's nice about this recipe is that you can use leftovers in a different way for as long as they last...tacos one day, burritos the next, quesadillas the next. As long as your family likes Mexican food and you start with a big hunk of pork, you might not have to cook for a few days! 😉 Hope you're having a great weekend!

  7. A few weeks ago I went to a restaurant that had this type of pork in enchiladas. I could not believe how good it was. Oh my. So good that I made it point to go back a couple of weeks later for the same dish. I normally don't order the same thing twice in a row. The problem with this is, one will never want a Oh Hum hamburger taco again.

    1. This pork is so easy to make, Carol, that you won't even need to make ho hum ground beef tacos again! Actually, they're both delicious in different ways. 😉 But I hope you enjoy these carnitas if you end up trying them!